Ceremony for fallen officers an annual reminder of sacrifice for Penn Hills
A group of police officers — retired and active — and their family members gathered around Penn Hills’ new police memorial March 25 to reflect on the day 47 years ago when they lost two of their own.
Police Chief Howard Burton and the Rev. Doug Rehberg of Hebron United Presbyterian Church spoke a few words of remembrance for Sgt.William Schrott, 49, and Patrolman Bartley Connolly Jr., 38, two former Penn Hills police officers who were shot and killed March 25, 1972.
The community comes together every year to remember the officers, who were working a security detail at the former East Hills Shopping Center when Rose Dinkins, 24 at the time, held up a store with a handgun. When confronted, Dinkins fatally shot Schrott and Connolly.
Dinkins was sentenced in 1972 to two consecutive life terms for first-degree murder. She is imprisoned at SCI Cambridge Springs.
Connolly had switched shifts with another officer that day, said Ron Hughes, Connolly’s partner.
“I was scheduled off that day,” Hughes said. When news hit that Connolly and Schrott had been shot, he and other officers rushed to the scene to help out in any way they could, he said. “I drove who we thought shot them to the station … tragic. It was just tragic.”
Hughes, 76, retired from the Penn Hills Police Department after a 28-year career.
“Everyone was sorry, you know? But now, for some reason, everyone is against the police,” he said, referencing protests happening in and around Pittsburgh after former East Pittsburgh police officer Michael Rosfeld was acquitted in the shooting death of Antwon Rose II, 17.
A jury on March 22 found Rosfeld not guilty on all charges in connection with the fatal shooting of the unarmed black teen as he ran from a June 19 traffic stop in East Pittsburgh.
Bob Alexander, 78, is Schrott’s son-in-law. He worked as an officer for Penn Hills for 16 years before serving as Plum’s chief of police for 10 years.
“I miss him. It’s weird to think back on things. … But I’ll do this for as long as I live,” Alexander said of remembering the fallen officers.
Joanne Alexander, Schrott’s daughter and Bob Alexander’s wife, was touched to see the crowd that gathered. She said there isn’t much to say beyond what has already been said — she just appreciates everyone being there.
“It’s nice to see the retirees, the guys on the department in 1972 … the fact they came out. I appreciate that,” she said.
The chief also spoke of other officers connected to the Penn Hills department who have died in the line of duty.
Penn Hills police Officer Michael Crawshaw, 32, died in December 2009 when he was shot by Ronald Robinson, 41, of Homewood, who had moments before shot and killed another man over a $500 drug debt.
Robinson is serving two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole after his conviction of second-degree murder in Crawshaw’s death and first-degree murder for killing Danyal Morton, 40, of Penn Hills.
Penn Hills police Officer Steffan Shaw is the brother of Brian Shaw, 25, who was shot and killed in November 2017 following a foot chase in New Kensington. Rahmael Sal Holt, 30, of Harrison has been charged in the shooting. His trial is set to begin in August.
“It’s just important to pay honor to these individuals,” Burton said. “Those officers took the same oath of office that these current officers took. … The families, they’ll never be the same. That’s a hole in their life that will never be filled.”
Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Dillon at 412-871-2325, [email protected] or via Twitter .